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HebCelt ‘truly sorry’ after deciding the show cannot go on

Hebridean Celtic Festival
Hebridean Celtic Festival

Ongoing pandemic restrictions has forced the cancellation of HebCelt’s delayed 25th anniversary celebration this summer.

The Hebridean Celtic Festival’s landmark event, which was to feature a line-up including Texas, Seasick Steve and Saving Grace, featuring rock legend Robert Plant, was postponed in July 2020.

It was hoped a “rollover” festival could be held this year, but uncertainty over Covid lockdown and travel restrictions means the event cannot go ahead.

Instead, a “hybrid” festival is being explored which could mix live performance and online content.

Festival director Caroline Maclennan said the decision had been taken “with deep regret”.

“The HebCelt team continues to work hard to plan for an event in 2021. The ideal situation would be a return to the kind of music and live performances that we have all come to enjoy.

“However, as everyone will likely know, Covid-19 and its restrictions continue to pose unique challenges which we have been working to mitigate.

“While vaccinations may bring some return to normality at some point this year, that is looking increasingly like it will not happen in time for us to safely put in place the kind of HebCelt we recognise.

“We are therefore planning for a hybrid event this year and are considering how that can be realised, including exploring a mixture of live performance and the creation of unique digital content.”

She added: “HebCelt is a vital part of the local economy and has showcased many of the best attributes of our culture and what the Outer Hebrides has to offer. This is why it will be important to find at least a ‘bridging’ solution that ensures an event of some kind takes place in 2021, with hopes to return fully in 2022.

The festival will be contacting people with rolled-over tickets offering full refunds.

Caroline Maclennan added: “We are truly sorry to be sharing this news with you all and the utter disappointment is shared by all of us here on the team.

“We thank everyone for their understanding, love and support of the festival. However, we would like to assure you that we are currently working towards a plan for 2021, a key consideration of which is the safety and protection of HebCelt and our local community.

“We look forward to being able to share news and updates with you soon.”

HebCelt directly generates net income of around £2 million annually. Over its four days attendances reach 18,000, with music fans arriving from all over the UK and abroad.

Last year, in place of live music, the festival streamed Seisean HebCelt (HebCelt Sessions), a programme of short films to showcase new commissions by musicians.

The move raised money for the Bethesda Hospice in Stornoway, which provides four hospice beds for specialist palliative care and 30 care home beds, and led to the release  of a new single.

The track, a version of Runrig’s anthem ‘Only the Brave’, featured the band’s Rory Macdonald, as well as Julie Fowlis, Outer Hebrides singer songwriter Colin Macleod and a variety of artists collectively dubbed the Hebridean Allstars.

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